In 2010 I started working on the cold storage project; identifying and describing photographic records that require frozen storage to preserve them. This includes colour prints and negatives and black and white negatives in acetate or nitrate format. Without proper environmental care, these materials will eventually fade and disintegrate. Black and white prints are quite stable and can remain in the Archives building. With approximately five million photographs in our holdings, where does one start?
I’ve always been interested in the creation and maintenance of the physical infrastructure of our world. In another universe I might have been an engineer. So one of the first accessions I chose to work on was 198203-024, photographs from the Dept. of Public Works. These records were transferred to the BC Archives around 1976 and consisted of ca. 6750 photographs in all formats which documented the activities of the department.
Keep in mind that this accession is only one of many transferred from Public Works, the Archives has extensive holdings of records created by this branch. But this accession is particularly rich because the photographs cover a period of over 75 years and includes glass lantern slides from the 1890’s to colour prints of the 1960’s. The majority of the photographs are from about 1913 to 1954 and show every aspect of the road and bridge building activity in the province. There are several series within this accession that are worth exploring….